The Story of the
Yale University Press
OUR purchase of "The Chronicles of America" was a great event
in the history of the Yale University Press. That cannot mean much
if anything to you, however, unless you know enough about the
personality of the Press to make you care about its history.
It has a very real personality and is as capable of hopes and ideals
and disappointments, mistakes and regrets and triumphs, too, as
any human being; which is but natural, since it is made up of
luman beings who are all passionately interested in its life and in its achievements.
Perhaps the chief reason for their devotion is that they all know that they are coop-
erating in producing something which is intrinsically valuable; and that, although all
must earn wages or salaries, no one is working for profits. There are no profits, for when-
ever one book succeeds financially it simply helps to pay for another which, although
commercially unprofitable, may nevertheless be potentially as real a gain for the world
as the plays of Shakespeare or the Psalms of David.
So we hope that you will always think of the Press as a great adventure in which you
have had a share. We hope too that you will feel as interested in its continued success
as you would be in the safe landfall of a ship which you had helped to build to carry
precious merchandise to new worlds.
How the ship was planned and something of its early voyages will be found in "The
Story of the Yale University Press Told by a Friend." A copy of this we are sending to
you with our compliments, together with this foreword to let you know that it is neither
a catalogue nor an appeal. We trust then that it will receive your personal attention
when it arrives, if only because it is a very beautifiil example of the printer's art. It
may add to your interest to know that the pamphlet was printed from hand-set type in
our own new printing oflice, the Earl Trumbull Williams Memorial, which we hope
that you may some day visit.
The type used is known as Garamond, taking its name from the famous sixteenth
century Frenchman, "the father of letter founders." The Yale University Press was one
of the first American houses to secure fonts of it. Curiously enough, in spite of its ex-
traordinary beauty, Garamond is not even now available in over a dozen of the com-
posing rooms of the United States.
YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS
New Year's Day, 1921.
"IT SHOULD BE A GOLDEN RULE
WITH ALL HISTORIC PUBLISHING-HOUSES
TO PRESERVE THEIR ANNALS
AND IN DUE COURSE GIVE THEM
TO THE WORLD."
Digitized by the Internet Archive
The Earl Trumhull Williams MemoriaL
THE STORY OF THE
YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS
TOLD BY A FRIEND
At the Earl Trumbull Williams Memorial.
COPYRIGHT 1920 BY
YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS
THE STORY OF
THE YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS TOLD
BY A FRIEND
TTN 1908 several people began talking together
about starting a publishing organization in con-
nection with Yale. The more they thought of the
J-L possibilities in it the more interested they grew.
They saw what a power a great publishing-house might
become. To build up a "Yale University Press" seemed
an exciting adventure, when they thought of all it might
do for letters, and for scholars and scholarship. . . .
But when they tried to carry out their plans, in hard
actuality, they had to begin pretty small. The first quar-
ters of the new Press were a pigeonhole in a busy man's
desk, and this desk was in a busy office downtown in
Yale New York: one that had nothing to do with books,
University ^-j^^^^p^ account-books, and grudged the Press even a
pigeonhole. So the Press moved after a while to a
building near Washington Square. There it had a
whole room. It was only a little black cave of a room,
but it was a great advance on one pigeonhole. The
busy man who had started the Press couldn't go up
there often; he had to stay down in his office: but one
of his family went and sat there. And she kept a record
of all the Press's work, in a ridiculous book, four by
seven, with a thin cover that looked like butchers' pa-
per. This was the cashbook, ledger, order-book, ship-
ping-book, and general record, combined. She rushed
down each morning to see if the postman had shoved
any mail through the slot in the door; and when some
of it was orders she had to telephone downtown at
once to announce them, because orders make you hap-
py when you are starting a publishing business. One
morning there was a splendid order for thirty-one
books, and it took her all day to get them tied up and
sent off and billed for.
Nowadays the main offices are in New Haven in a Yale
big old house on the Green; * and there is a branch be- ^"^^^'^^"^y
sides, in New York (which is well worth a visit) and
I don't know just how many hundred books it would
take to be a large order, now.
The world of books is the most remarkable creation
of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monu-
ments fall; nations perish; civilizations grow old and
die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build
others. But in the world of books are volumes that
have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on,
still young, still as fresh as the day they were written,
still telling men's hearts of the hearts of men centu-
And even the books that do not last long, penetrate
*This house formerly belonged to Governor Ingersoll, of Con-
necticut, and was built about 1830. It was purchased as a home for the
Press, in 1919, by Mrs. Harriet T. Williams, in memory of her son,
Lieutenant Earl Trumbull Williams.
Yale their own times at least, sailing farther than Ulysses even
University ^^j^^ J q£^ [[^^ ships on the seas. It is the author's part
to call into being their cargoes and passengers, — liv-
ing thoughts and rich bales of study and jeweled ideas.
And as for the publishers, it is they who build the fleet,
plan the voyage, and sail on, facing wreck, till they find
every possible harbor that will value their burden.
Any great university might well be proud to go in-
to publishing. Indeed it is more appropriate for uni-
versities to do it than business men.
The publisher who thinks of himself as a builder of
ships, will naturally care about designing and building
them well. The types and the paper and the bindings
must be stately and strong — or have whatever charac-
teristics suit the contents and life of each volume. But the
Yale University Press has had no plant of its own. Each
time that it publishes a book it must farm out this work.
Through the aid of the master printers who work for
it, it has produced handsome books; but it has needed
at least a little press, to try out types and styles. And it
has wanted much more. It has wanted presses enough
and a bindery to make its own books: a place where
men could work and experiment in the old craftsman
In most printing- and publishing-houses it is neces-
sary to put money first, and to plan as a rule to
make the most profits — not the best books. But print-
ing is more than a business: it is an art or a craft; and
it should not be learned only in establishments that are
conducted for profit. To be sure, a man can get a good
business-training in such an establishment: he can also
get a standardized training as a practical printer, and in
some places he can even become pretty good at the art:
but the latter is subordinate, necessarily, in a commer-
cial establishment. And there ought to be more print-
ing-houses in the world where it isn't. Printing-houses
where beauty of workmanship and design would come
first, and where the object would be to make each book
Yale perfect if possible. Not books de luxe only, but every
University ]^[^^^ ^^^^^
Such a place should be run partly as any business
concern should be run, because efficiency, system, and
new ways to check waste, repay study: and partly as a
laboratory and training-school for young master print-
ers: a school where all kinds of experiments can be
thought out and tried.
Under the will of Earl Trumbull Williams the Press
has now received a bequest which has enabled it to in-
stall the beginnings of a plant of this kind. But any fur-
ther development must depend upon what other men
do in helping the Press to go ahead; and meantime
things must wait. If the Press were to beg urgently
enough for it, help might come now, but the help
that comes reluctantly or as a charity is not the best
kind. The best kind, of course, is that which comes
from men who care what it means, and who like to be
builders of something that is really worth while, and
who will enjoy watching their work grow, and get some
fun out of giving.
The Princeton University Press has a beautiful plant,
which was given it by Mr. Charles Scribner in this kind
of spirit. At this plant the Princeton Almnni Weekly is
printed and some of the undergraduate periodicals.
When Yale can have a place like that, the undergrad-
uates who are interested in pressrooms can come
around and learn how to print a paper as well as to
publish it. Why should Yale's youthful editors and
reporters have so much chance to practice, while the
artist printers that Yale might be training have no
chance at all? The right kind of printing helps as much
to make the written word carry, as the right kind of
voice helps the spoken word.
It would be a good thing if every man who writes
knew a little of printing. An author who did would
know how to prepare his manuscripts properly, which
is something that not one in a hundred has sufficient
idea of; and that would save making great numbers
of needless corrections. These avoidable wastes, all of
which, of course, add to the cost, are stupidities that
civilized printers should try to eliminate.
There are a number of other useful things that the Press
wants to do. Sometimes, for instance, a highly trained
man appears, hot on the trail of some research, the re-
sults of which would be of wide interest to the world,
and of value, but which he can do little or no work
on, because he must earn his living. If the Press had
the funds, it would first make sure his work had great
worth, and then it could advance such a man enough
money to live on — economically it goes without saying
— until he completed his task. To be able to step in
and do that, and then publish the book, would be
one of those services to mankind that are best worth
performing. And think of the difference that this help
would make in the career of that man: how much soon-
er he would be advanced to the rank where his brains
could do most, and how much more fruitful to all of
us his life would thus be.
Even small sums of money might accomplish large
results in this way. And large sums could sometimes
be used with tremendous effect. The fact that the Press
is surrounded by such expert advisers, — the men on
Yale's faculties and others, — should ensure wise ex-
I was saying to myself the other day, "What is Yale,
after all?" A spectator might describe it as a place where
young men go, each year; and where older men teach
them, and die; and where others replace them. But
Yale isn't just a place nor those men. It's much more
— or it's nothing.
When any good Yale man tries to answer a question
like that, he is swayed by old memories and old feelings,
and they sometimes go deep. So in order to cut out any
emotion that is not wholly impartial, let us ask the
same question about other places: What is Harvard, or
Well, any institution that a lot of men have worked
for, and loved, becomes a living force: that is about the
only answer I know. What kind of a living force it is
Yale depends on the way it affects those around it. And that
University ^^^^ depends on the kind of love men have put into it.
The various orders of knighthood in the era of
chivalry, the monasteries that ardent young priests
joined — they were all living forces. Famous regiments
like the Black Watch of Scotland, or Napoleon's Old
Guard — every man who joined one of them felt he
was more of a man.
This has been true of Yale.
These intangible, stirring inspirations come into ex-
istence, only when men have given themselves, con-
sciously or not, to the making of them. Then — what
strength they exert!
In the old Saybrook days, it was when those minis-
ters came and gave books, that the thing that we call
Yale was born. Their gifts and the spirit behind them,
and their willingness to work for the place, and their
faith in the good it would do — thatW2iS what gave it
life. Yale was only a small force at first. It is a mighty
And the Yale University Press was conceived in this
r ■ ' ■
' VI. Yale
I don't suppose, when Yale started, it seemed to the University
neighbors supremely worth helping. It was only a little
collegiate school, in a small country town. But if you
and I had been living then, and could have foreseen
what Yale was to be, it would certainly have roused us
to get out and work hard to strengthen her. We should
have felt that one of the best and finest uses we could
make of our lives would be to do anything we could to
build up such a place.
It is the Yale University Press that is now in that
stage. It has greatness ahead of it, much more great-
ness than we dream of perhaps. But today it is young.
A few men are putting their hearts into it, a few more
their gifts, or their interest and good will. It is grow-
ing. It will all be worth while. . . .
Printed at the Yale University Press by
Carl Purington Rollins, Printer to the University,
KEFERENCE-USE IN LIBRARY OM"